Fear Factor becomes the first reality TV show to become a theme park attraction when Fear Factor Live opens today at Universal Orlando. The collaboration, made possible by the merging of Universal and NBC, has led to an attraction that’s being called “the most extreme audience participation show ever produced.” Up to 48 park guests will be cast every day to participate in three stunts.
The attraction borrows heavily from the series, using the same disclaimer, theme music, and structure (three stunts, with two people being eliminated after each stunt). The stunts include an endurance test, a team-based challenge, and a final head-to-head competition featuring a suspended car. In between the big stunts, six audience members get to drink a horrifying smoothie, while another has scorpions placed on their head. Audience members also get to interact with the players as the compete, spraying them with water cannons or pelting them with rubber balls.
Yesterday, I attended an attraction preview for some Orlando park guests and the media, and Fear Factor: Couples winners Dean and Ashley Molina appeared to be among the first six competitors. While Ashley was eliminated after the first stunt, Dean made it through all three, and won the final. Ashley came back for a second media show and redeemed herself by making it to the second stunt, where she was paired with a New York Daily News writer named Todd. While suspended from a cable and swinging across the stage, he had to throw rancid octopus and squid into a bucket Ashley was holding. Alas, he kept tossing them at the wrong time, at the bottom part of the arc, so most of them just dropped to the stage. Although Ashley and Todd had the advantage with five rancid cephalopod to throw, Ashley and her embarrassing partner Todd were eliminated and took the walk of shame.
Afterwards, I talked to Matt Kunitz, the NBC series’ executive producer, about the attraction, and he said, “I’m thrilled with it.” However, he did say that the Orlando version, specifically the “center of the show,” needs “tweaking.” I also asked Kunitz, who directed five seasons of The Real World before executive producing Fear Factor, about the show’s evolution from single players to the couples format that played a regular role this season (and will replace individuals next season). He said, “it was always my goal to evolve in that direction,” adding that couples add “a whole new emotional element” which doesn’t exist with single players. He also said it increases the pace of the show.
A similar version of the show opens June 17 at Universal Hollywood. If a May 6 Chicago Tribune article is correct, the stunts at the Hollywood version will be more extreme and complicated than the ones in Orlando.